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Mars Rover Sniffs First Hint of Water?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the probing-in-the-rain dept.

Space 479

mhw25 writes "It is reported that the Mars rover Spirit is already well into its scientific mission, and may be detecting hints of water. The mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer has returned its first image, with probable evidence of carbonates and hydrated minerals. We may know more after the rover rolls off its landing base, after making a 120 degree turn to avoid the airbag blocking its front ramp, to start analyses on soil from Thursday or Friday. An ongoing intrigue is already developing - a scientist reckoned that some of the soil around the airbag 'looks like mud, but it can't be mud'."

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10000 digits of pi (-1)

users.pl (689022) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956024)

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Re:10000 digits of pi (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956088)

Pi. What is it all about... is it good, or is it whack?

No thanks, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956090)

I am a vegan...

Culture (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956050)

Where there is water, there may also be a brewery. These Martians may be eons ahead of us..

Re:Culture (1, Funny)

Dilbert_ (17488) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956084)

Martian beer? I don't think so... wouldn't you need sugar & stuff to ferment first?

Re:Culture (5, Funny)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956163)

No, beer is one of the fundamental building blocks of the universe, like gravity and duct tape.

Re:Culture (0)

warpSpeed (67927) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956308)

No, beer is one of the fundamental building blocks of the universe, like gravity and duct tape.

There are more fundamental building blocks then beer. As sub-atomic partilces are to atoms, Beer is to hops, grains, and yeast. Combine these elements with water, and Viola! You can name many differnt types of Beer!

Hmmm, I'm going home and pulling a homebrew stout from the beer fridge!

Re:Culture (2, Funny)

Quirk (36086) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956325)

from an ancient Sumerian text cirica 3000 B.C. on the staples of civilization: "cloth to wear, cooked meat to eat, beer to drink"

Re:Culture (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956218)

Excellent, i've been waiting ages to try a pan galactic gargle blaster.

Heh, that wasn't water you just sniffed :-) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956056)


intrigue (5, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956057)

An ongoing intrigue is already developing - a scientist reckoned that some of the soil around the airbag'looks like mud, but it can't be mud'."

In a bioengineering course I took once we were playing around with various materials prior to creating various cements and I found that many very fine grained ultra dry powders exhibited qualities one might presume were qualities exhibited in mud. Specifically, the appearance of folding up in waves like there were some bonding force holding things together when pushed. Applying various degrees of static charges to the materials appeared to amplify these effects allowing for clumping as well.

I am curious though as to why they dont think it could be mud if they are indeed suspicious of water being present?

Re:intrigue (3, Informative)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956102)

"I am curious though as to why they dont think it could be mud if they are indeed suspicious of water being present?"

because as far as we can tell water cant exist in a liquid state on mars.

Re:intrigue (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956193)

because as far as we can tell water cant exist in a liquid state on mars.

Ah, but how much water is the question. Certainly atmospheric pressures would indicate that large volumes of water may not be possible unless they were seeping or somehow otherwise protected from atmospheric effects. So, a correlative question might also be, how much water would be required for particle wetting to provide enough cohesiveness? I don't really know and my background is not in materials science but if the dust particles were small enough, perhaps a few water molecules could provide enough van der walls forces to hold the material together enough to resemble mud?

Re:intrigue (1)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956294)

I wish I were smarter so I could follow that with an equally intelligent reply...but all I know is that its just to damn cold on the surface.

Re:intrigue (2, Interesting)

Fr33z0r (621949) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956353)

Liquid water can indeed exist on the Martian surface - fleetingly admittedly, it would boil off at a very very low temperature, but there would certianly be a window between the point the ice melts, and the water boils.

Re:intrigue (1)

ifreakshow (613584) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956109)

I think the speculation is that trace amounts of water would be present. Or that it would be locked away in rocks. If it was mud that would mean lots of water.

Re:intrigue (4, Informative)

Cosmonut (706410) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956135)

The low air pressure and the low temperatures in Gusev would seem to rule out liquid water. It's more likely (in my opinion) that what they're seeing is clay, which would have the water chemically bound. Although, as you stated, it's also possible that it's composed of statically-charged Martian fines.

Re:intrigue (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956146)

How can you be so stupid. It's like 500 degrees on Mars Einstein. How could there be mud? You stupid fucker.

Re:intrigue (5, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956182)

"I am curious though as to why they dont think it could be mud if they are indeed suspicious of water being present?"

Nasa doesn't like to operate that way. They don't want to finger a suspect and look at only proof that it's what they're after. Instead, they want to look at all the data and try to learn everything they can.

Seems to me they're just avoiding being overly zealous in their approach. In the process of proving something does exist, you risk avoiding the evidence that it doesn't.

Re:intrigue (2, Informative)

jest3r (458429) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956185)

Because the surface air temperature is never above freezing (usually between -40 to -60 degrees.)

surface temp graph [nasa.gov]

Re:intrigue (2, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956293)

Because the surface air temperature is never above freezing (usually between -40 to -60 degrees.)

But how many water molecules do you need for ice crystal formation? Also atmospheric pressures are low indicating much liquid water would sublimate rather quickly. However if there were just a few water molecules interspersed relatively uniformly amongst the dust particles you might not get ice formation per se. Rather you might get an extra degree of molecular bonding allowing for a cohesiveness of fine grained particles?

Black Gold, Texas Tea (2, Funny)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956229)

Oil that is, looks like mud but doesn't require water. First thing you know old Jed's a millionaire!

Re:intrigue (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956309)

I wonder what the Black Gay Love group thinks about this. Niggas? Any thoughts?


Re:intrigue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956371)

It's proof positive that there is water on Mars. Yeah, it's not liquid, but the compound is there. We've known this since the 70's. It was re-affirmed in the 80's, rediscovered in the 90's, and it's going to continue to be so in the 2000's. I can see it now; and it's going to become increasingly more irritating every time NASA rediscovers water on Mars.

NASA has been designing equipment to collect dirt, heat it up till the water comes out as steam (dosen't take a lot on account of the atmosphere pressure), turn it back into water and store it... For AGES.

Purpose being to support a base there, both in water for humans, and as fuel storage (hydrolize it for propellant with solar or nuclear energy, or use fuel cells to power the base during the night).

Of course, the water density isn't the same everywhere on Mars due to the weather conditions, but it is there.

About Time! (-1, Offtopic)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956059)

I for one, welcome our aquatic martian overlords! Seriously, with all that has gone wrong in Mars exploration, it is great to see some genuine success. My hat is off to all who have worked on Space missions (The ones that got there, as well as the ones that left) because we are one step closer to getting a tiny fraction of a clue about the worlds around us!


Re:About Time! (1)

ElGnomo (612336) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956099)

first you welcome our true masters and then you celebrate one of their failures? Are you begging for an anal probing?

Re:About Time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956149)

People who use that fucking "I for one welcome our _____ overlords" joke suck almost as bad as people who say w00t. I mean really, why dont you say something about how all their bases are belong to us as long as we are flogging deceased equines. Ugh!

Whining's cliche, too, chum! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956244)


This Just In (5, Funny)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956070)

There is water on Mars. The ICE CAPS were first noticed about FOUR HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

More breaking news as it becomes available. Thank you.

Re:This Just In (1)

tealover (187148) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956117)

Rover is not anywhere near the caps. They are looking for the existence that water existed on Mars as it does not on Earth, over a large swatch of the planet.

It would be hard for a sea creature to crawl out of frozen water and begin its Ascent to Mankind.

Re:This Just In (5, Interesting)

hcg50a (690062) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956153)

400 years ago, it was not known that they were ice.

In fact, it is only within that last 40 or so years that one of them was known to be primarily water ice, and the other was known to be primarily dry ice (ie., frozen CO2).

The significance of today's discovery is that there is more evidence that there was liquid water (not just ice) present when some of the rocks around the Rover were formed.

Re:This Just In (4, Informative)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956222)

and just a year ago we found out that both poles are mostly water ice [space.com].

Re:This Just In (1)

g00set (559637) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956264)

Thanks. I did just notice the info was from way back in 2001. :) Good catch.

Re:This Just In (1)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956323)

Thanks. I had found that same article you posted but I looked for a few more minutes and found the newer one with different info.

Maybe not H20 (1)

g00set (559637) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956164)

I don't believe that they were always thought...or have currently verified the caps to be H20. Some have speculated that it is frozen C02.

Re:This Just In (1, Informative)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956212)

"There is water on Mars. The ICE CAPS were first noticed about FOUR HUNDRED YEARS AGO."

You don't have to have water to have ice. The caps are made of frozen carbon dioxide.

Re:This Just In (2, Informative)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956296)

This is true, but the search for Water, or evidence of it is to discover whether the water was liquid once flowing. Evidence of flowing water on mars , ie, not ice ! would suggest that mars once had a climate warm enough to have conditions capable of supporting life.

Although there are many examples of situations where life on earth exists in very extreme conditions. EG , very hot deep sea thermal vents, or in very cold conditions in the earths Ice caps. If we can find flowing water , or evidence therof. That might also open up the possibilites of sedimentary processes and thus increase the possibilities of finding fossilised remains.

I think many scientists beleive that water once flowed on Mars, although the evidence is already pointing in that direction the current mars mission aims to prove it once and for all and turn hypothesis into fact.

Whether mars still has regions that are still capable of supporting primitive life are conjecture. Maybe the ice caps hold the clue, or maybe beneath the surface where it is warmer? who knows. During mars summer months surface temperatures can sometimes raise to above freezing ? about 12-15degrees farehnheit. Which, although cold might just be enough to support some crazy organism !

Can This Thing Drill Through the Crust? (3, Funny)

tealover (187148) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956073)

If there are martians, they're most certainly living underneath the unforgiving surface. I would love to see Rover snap a pic of someone peeking his head out from a hole in the ground.

Re:Can This Thing Drill Through the Crust? (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956273)

First I read that as "peeing" and thought that knowing NASA, they wouldn't be able to tell if a Martian frat boy was peeing on their 80bn $ rover.

Re:Can This Thing Drill Through the Crust? (1)

loserbert (697119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956326)

I would love to see Rover snap a pic of someone peeking his head out from a hole in the ground

Only if it has a green helmet with a yellow mohawk that looks like a broom...

So let me get this right... (2, Funny)

vvdb (739509) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956078)

The rover may soon be the first to go mudbogging on Mars... So that is why Bush wants to go to Mars.

Re:So let me get this right... (1)

robslimo (587196) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956269)

Before I re-read your post, I thought it made sense as a joke. I thought you said 'mudlogging', which is to analyse the petroleum content in the mud extracted from oil wells during the drilling process. So let's try it again...

The rover may soon be the first to go mud-logging on Mars... So that is why Bush wants to go to Mars.

Re:So let me get this right... (2, Informative)

Ageless (10680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956330)

Mudbogging is to take a motor vehicle and drive it around wildly in the mud. It's popular in the south, and in rural areas in general. Bush is a hick, so presumably he might like to do some mudbogging.

Gotta remember (5, Funny)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956091)

Water is believed to be a pre-requisite for life.

Well, that and a 1x4x9 ebon slab.

Re:Gotta remember (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956186)

Well, that and a 1x4x9 ebon slab

Actually, as I recall (from one of the books), it was a 1 x 4 x 9 x 16 x 25 x 36 x... slab. It was just that the perceptions of our simian ancestors were limited to three dimensions.

"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (2, Interesting)

ThisIsAnExampleAccou (718430) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956097)

Forgive my Astrophysics ignorance, but can someone explain this quote:

"It looks like mud, but it can't be mud.

I skimmed the article, and did not see it explained anywhere. Why, exactly, can it not be mud?

Thanks in advance!

Re:"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (3, Informative)

Effugas (2378) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956165)

It's below freezing on the surface (no atmosphere to retain heat). Not to mention that whole thin atmosphere thing doesn't provide enough pressure to prevent liquid water from boiling away anyway.

Mud is water spatially mixed with soil, but not chemically bonded. It would freeze (as we saw in Boston, when they froze the soil for three years straight to prevent it from collapsing during the Big Dig).


Re:"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (1)

ThisIsAnExampleAccou (718430) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956274)

Ok, that makes sense - let me make sure that I understand.

There is no water, and even if there was water, it is so cold that it would freeze before it had a chance to mix with the soil. Correct?

Re:"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (5, Insightful)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956340)

Actually it would probably boil first. Freezing is a much slower process. The lack of atmospheric pressure would get to it long before the temperature ever did.

Re:"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (1)

zapp (201236) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956176)

Perhapse the constant sub-zero temperatures.

Re:"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (1)

james72 (684835) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956181)

Well, forgive my Astrophysics ignorance too, but I'd imagine that mud is wet dirt, correct? And wet dirt needs water, which is not yet known to exist...

That's my take on it, anyway.


Re:"Looks like mud, but it can't be mud" ??? (1)

ThisIsAnExampleAccou (718430) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956335)

I think that the root of my misunderstanding was that I did not notice the question mark in the title of this story - I read it as "Mars Rover Sniffs First Hint of Water!" - so you can see why I was confused. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

brother where art tho (-1, Offtopic)

MonkeysKickAss (735143) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956101)

Yes soon the rover will find my brother, my family lost him on our family vaction to Mars last year he responds to E.T.

hydrated minerals? (4, Insightful)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956103)

"evidence of carbonates and hydrated minerals"

Isn't that what commets are primarily composed of? I fully expect H2O molecules to be present on Mars and every other planet. This should not be a suprise to anyone.

Re:hydrated minerals? (2, Informative)

blike (716795) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956214)

Finding evidence of a long-standing liquid body of water is the primary concern in this situation. Carbonates and hydrated materials form under these conditions.

Re:hydrated minerals? (4, Informative)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956346)

"Isn't that what commets are primarily composed of?"

Well, not exactly. Yes, water is present on comets. However, the H2O present on comets is primarily in a solid state. IOW, it's not fit to react with surrounding minerals (at least not in any sizeable quantities). So, yeah, it's perfectly reasonable to find trace amounts of water on Mars. However, the presence of large hydrated material deposits requires that this water be present in liquid form for relatively long periods of time.

breaking news (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956110)

Mars lander stuck in mud. News at 11

Good news, bad news (5, Funny)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956118)

Prediction for when the rover finally starts to rove: The good news: It finds water. The bad news: It sinks and vanishes in the mud.

Re:Good news, bad news (1)

focitrixilous P (690813) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956166)

Prediction for when the rover finally starts to rove: The good news: It finds water. The bad news: It sinks and vanishes in the mud.
cause you know the lander is lighter then air and is currently keeping it afloat...
Airbags are wonderful things, I guess.

Tidying (5, Funny)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956133)

it is clear that it is very different from any of the three previous Mars landing sites explored by Vikings 1 and 2 and Pathfinder. For example, those plains all had about 20 per cent of their surfaces covered with rocks. Around Spirit, the figure is just three per cent.

Looks like our previous visits have made them clean up for company.

When will they learn (1)

geeber (520231) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956145)

Not to announce major scientific discoveries in the press before they have been properly peer-reviewed?

Cold fusion, anyone?

Re:When will they learn (0, Troll)

ifreakshow (613584) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956172)

I would expect to see many announcements like this in regards to the Mars mission as it is great propaganda.

Re:When will they learn (1)

geeber (520231) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956268)

True. But it will still be embarrasing if they have to backtrack on any of these grand claims.

Re:When will they learn (2, Interesting)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956281)

Not to announce major scientific discoveries in the press before they have been properly peer-reviewed?

If they tried to keep it under wraps, the Area 51ers would be accusing NASA of a coverup. Besides, it's pretty tough to keep any sort of secret these days, and it's probably better to put out some bad info and have to retract it than having leakers with their own agendas putting out a distorted and fragmented view.

Re:When will they learn (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956301)

All the instruments are using well known science.

Which means absolute results like, "My God its full carbonate!" is not in doubt.

What is open to speculation is that carbonate means there was water there.

How are we supposed to know (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956156)

How are we supposed to know that any of this evidence or these results are even real? We know that there is a major desire in the scientific community to present life as a common and non-precious commodity that can be found on a billion different planets all over the universe. With that in mind, how exactly are we expected to believe the results that they report, especially when objective and independent observers can't simply go to Mars themselves and repeat the experiments? It seems to me that the position that we are in is to just sit back and accept what they are saying on faith without having any real proof whatsoever.

There are many folks (and I count myself among them) who believe that the MER team knew the exact results that they wanted this mission to produce years before launch. And I don't see any particular reason to believe any of this unless more qualified observers can repeat the experiments or unless NASA gives us access to the raw data streams from the lander itself so that we can be sure that the science results are not being doctored or otherwise altered.

Re:How are we supposed to know (1)

hyperstation (185147) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956276)

im not so skeptical...but FWIW, having public access to the raw data wouldn't be such a bad idea, since all of this is taxpayer funded.

Re:How are we supposed to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956369)

I agree, it's definitely all scandalous.

I thought it was bad enough when they attempted to tell us that the stars are more than 10,000 light years away, as if the universe were older than that.

Predator-vision (0, Flamebait)

xsfo (604140) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956167)

Man can't Spirit's IR vision be more like Predator?

You one ugly motherfucker

yes, well (2, Insightful)

rritterson (588983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956183)

It looks like mud, but it can't be mud.

Yeah, just like that picture of a rock from mars looks like a face but can't be a face, and that picture of that smoke looks like the image of satan, etc...

So what if it just looks like mud? It's a freaking lo-res black and white photograph! I'll be intrigued when you say It feels like mud and is a mixture of soil and water, but it can't be mud!

Re:yes, well (1)

rritterson (588983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956242)

Okay, so I'm a freakin moron- the picture is indeed in color, but still isn't particularly Hi-res.

Re:yes, well (2, Informative)

z_gringo (452163) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956275)

It's actually a very high res full color image, and yes it does look like mud. Check out the Pics in the Article.

Re:yes, well (5, Informative)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956303)

It feels like mud and is a mixture of soil and water, but it can't be mud!

It can't be mud because of physics. Water cannot exist in free form in the surface of Mars because it would simply evaporate instantly (at least in most locations). Temperature and atmospheric pressure are the usual suspects here. And we do know what those are with a relatively high degree of certainty. Ergo, it can't be mud. It must be some sort of wacky sand, like montmorillonite. Data from the Mariner probes has detected a few dozen types of this clay. Maybe this is one we haven't seen before.

Water, if found, will be either in the poles or trapped in molecule-sized amounts in rocks under the surface, nominally because of some sort of organism like microscopic algae or fungus keeps it there as part of its organic cycle. The idea goes that if you find water there you're also likely to find some type of primitive life.

But I suggest we let the thing dig holes and stuff before we get all excited =)

Best page for up to the minute news? (3, Interesting)

spaceman harris (646958) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956260)

I've been looking around various sites, but mostly keeping up with news about Spirit through google news. What is THE best site for up to the minute reports?

Don't jump (5, Interesting)

toxic666 (529648) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956291)

to conclusions based upon early data before the rover has even "hit the road." We'll be getting more and better data.

As an example. One of my geology profs was studying an outcropping of calcium-rich meta-igneous rock (meta basalt). He kept finding a mix of calcium oxalate minerals on the surface of the rock in numerous places, but couldn't understand how they would be a weathering product. Oxalate minerals are unusual in nature.

Then it dawned on him. Oxalates are common in kidney stones. He bought a live trap and captured several wild rats. Then he kept them in a lab and realized they like to urinate in the same place. What appeared to be a strange chemical weathering reaction was actually just evaporated rat urine.

Point is, first impressions may be incorrect and additional data and study leads to more accurate conclusions. Sometimes those later conclusions are more interesting (or comical) than the original hypothesis.

Re:Don't jump (5, Funny)

El (94934) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956317)

So you're saying this "mud" may actually just be Martian rat urine?

Please, please, please... (5, Funny)

Guano_Jim (157555) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956300)

An ongoing intrigue is already developing - a scientist reckoned that some of the soil around the airbag 'looks like mud, but it can't be mud'."

...let it be oil. Bush will have a man on Mars in ten minutes, tops.

mini-tes website (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7956311)

(posting A/C since a. it may fuck up my (and cubicle-mates internet connection and b. i work in a related fashing with it)

http://minites.asu.edu [asu.edu]

Now that we have finally landed... (0, Offtopic)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956314)

...they are fucking with our minds to make us either create more targets for them to shoot at at a later date or confuse the shit out of us that we give up invading their space and leave them alone. I mean we have all seen Mars Attack havn't we, they like to make a joke of things?,/br>
Remember how they made a bong out of a nuclear missle?
Now its the "chuck some water at the robot survivor to confuse it" while we reload.

Water (5, Informative)

Fr33z0r (621949) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956332)

Last I heard they'd found bound water, and the surface was a lot hotter than they expected it to be. In the last image release I notice they show a graph of the temperature (presumably up near the Pancam) at ~1m above the surface - the great thing about Mars' atmosphere is how quickly it get's cold the higher you get - i.e. very. Like, your feet could be warm and your head would be a solid block of ice.

The kinda cool thing is the TES data [asu.edu] shows a current temperature map at surface level - you notice at Gusev Crater (where spirit is, about 15S, 185W - so basically around halfway down the right edge of the picture) the temperature is somewhere around 0C, +/-10 degrees or so.

The *really* cool thing is, when they were getting ready to make the rover stand up and strut its stuff, they went through extra checks and testing on Earth because the landing site was a lot warmer than they expected - there's every chance that it's above 0 there, in fact, there's every chance that (on the surface at least) Spirit is enjoying much better weather than I am right now.

It's common knowledge that Mars' equator regularly gets up into the positive numbers, even up above 20c, the only real question as to the feasibility of liquid water in these regions is whether there is any ice left there to melt, or if it is all up at the poles (or underground). Due to the low triple point of water on Mars, and the theory that it's just coming out of an ice-age, there's every chance there is no liquid left around there to melt, but there's certainly a chance there is.

Fortunately, we have a rover up there that will be able to tell us for sure in a few days :)

Mud on Mars? (4, Funny)

gatekeep (122108) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956350)

Big deal, mud on mars.. wake me up when the hot three-breasted mutant alien chicks are wrestling in it :)

Microscope needed! (4, Interesting)

DumbSwede (521261) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956355)

Too bad beagle doesn't appear to have survived landing on mars. From the description of its mission it seemed more directed at finding evidence of life more directly. NASA seems to have concluded the Viking data was the last word on the subject and would rather gather indirect evidence of life for now, rather than direct evidence and have it seem a failure if none is discovered. Viking sat on the Mars for years transmitting back data. I imagine the most useful info would have been transmitted in the first days after a complete scan had been made of the area. Now granted Spirit and Opportunity can wheel around to new local each day, but most of the data will be of the nature Hey-NASA-I've-Found-Another-Red-Rock. How much better to have a decent microscope that can scan unending detail in samples taken. Some say the stew of nutrients Viking used showed circadian rhythm like responses. Had this been true biological activity, no doubt a microscopic examination would have shown the beasties, regardless of their chemistry. Speaking of chemistry, Viking only seemed to include one nutrient mix. For fauna adapted to a desicating environment, one can only wonder if perhaps they drowned the poor buggers.

All and all, I don't understand why a range of microscopes has not been standard issue on all Mars lander missions.

As a lowly engineer... (4, Interesting)

madcow_ucsb (222054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956362)

...and not a scientist, I've always wondered...Why do we feel like all life *needs* water? Who's to say the martians don't live on nitrogen or uranium or plaine old red rocks? Or that they don't thrive on some yet undiscovered stuff.

I know I don't have a clue what I'm talking about (hence posting to /. :), but it always seems silly to me when NASA keeps says "we need to find the water to find the life!" Says who?

Possible Mud Theory ? (2, Interesting)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 10 years ago | (#7956373)

Maybe the soil in the area of the rover was once mud (before it was frozen) and the bouncy air bags were so f**king hot when they bounced on the ground that it melted the mud and left funny patterns?

Of course... by now though, it'll be frozen again.
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